Design Blog – Elisabeth Friedländer

20th-century German designer Elisabeth Friedländer specialized in calligraphy, typography, and bookwork. Her talent and merit were already apparent when she was still a student of typography at the Berlin Academy, where she designed her own font and typeface known today as Elisabeth-Antiqua. Originally, she named it Friedlander-Antiqua, but due to the rise of Nazism, who annulled everything non-Arian, the name Friedländer had to be dropped for its Jewish connotation. With no work available to Jews in Germany at that time, she immigrated to London, taking along her both her portfolio and her violin.

Her move to London is undoubtedly considered Friedländer golden age. A creative group of artists and designers quickly formed around her, and she began designing books for the leading publishing house, Penguin. This made Friedländer to be the first woman and first Jew to design her own typeface and work with a prestigious market player such as Penguin. Additionally, in her effort to fight the Nazis, Friedländer applied her skills in typography and design to forge German documents for the British secret service during World War II.

Friedländer has been awarded numerous accolades, several of which are from Penguin in recognition of the outstanding covers she created for the publication’s pocket-size paperback series of classical music scores. She often worked closely with Jan Tschichold, and remained working for Penguin long after he left the publication, designing novels and working on other literary projects that were published.
She is remembered as a revolutionary figure in the world of design and an inspiration for many generations.

A first-edition copy of Friedländer’s 11th edition for Penguin publishing can be found in Dan Alexander + Co, Collection at Chateau Cramirat.

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